more Halloween challenge movie thing stuff! Yeah!

Dead Men Walk (B&W, 1943) George Zucco has a dual role as kindly Dr. Clayton and his evil, deceased brother Elwin, whose studies of the black arts have given him the power to return as a vampire.  Raging with hate, he targets Clayton's niece and starts vampiric attacks on her, aided by his assistant, Dwight Frye (in a more restrained role than usual, and also one of his last).  Clayton and his niece's boyfriend struggle to stop Elwin's evil but the local law thinks Clayton's the one responsible since they' believe his twin to be dead.  A low-budget B-picture but actually pretty good, with Zucco giving the evil role plenty of unrestrained malice, and the finale is impressive.

Fog, The (C, 2005) Unnecessary remake of John Carpenter's classic isn't a disgrace or anything (although I could definitely get an argument out of that claim) but it adds nothing but more face-time for the monsters... and since they look fakey SyFy-Channel monsterfied, that's not exactly a special feature.  The story's basically the same -- undead leper pirates killing the townspeople of Antonio Bay in the middle of a supernatural fog.  Instead of stolen gold they want revenge on the descendents of the people who stole their land and murdered them all.  There are lots more special effects of varying quality but it's not an improvement.  Nor is it unwatchable, and it won't bore you.

Monster Maker, The (B&W, 1944) aka The Devil’s Apprentice.  Pretty sick (by 40’s standards, anyway)  PRC horror in which a mad doctor (J. Carrol Naish) gets a serious crush on a pianist’s daughter, because she looks like his dead wife.  The doctor gives the girl the creeps, though, so her dad tells the doc to get lost.  In revenge, he injects dad with acromegaly, a disease that causes grotesque, deforming swelling of the extremities.  Rondo Hatton, who wasn’t in this film but who starred in several others around that time, actually had this condition.  The pianist grows deformed... and angry.  He wants to kill the doctor for infecting him, so the doctor has to chain him up, and then tries to force a marriage on his unwilling daughter.  There’s also a rampaging gorilla and some powers of hypnotism to keep things moving.  One of the better PRC films, with more bad taste than was usual in the timid 40’s.  Glen Strange (who was weird-looking in his own right; he was Sam The Bartender on Gunsmoke) has a small role as Naish’s assistant.

Grave Encounters (C, 2011) Faux-reality show in the Blair Witch mode.  This kind of thing has become very familiar but can still pack in some tension and scares if it's handled well... and this one's handled very well.  It never quite manages to come across as real -- it always looks like acting -- but it does manage plenty of creepiness and some highly effective shocks, and it builds to some heavyweight darkness.  A TV crew locks itself inside an abandoned mental hospital for the night to film an episode of one of those ghost-hunter reality shows.  At first they're disappointed that the place is quiet and boring, but then little things start happening... and then they get a whole lot more than they bargained for.  Doors that used to lead to exits now just open on to more labyrinthine corridors, and they're populated by some very spooky and disturbed spirits.  And morning never comes; it remains dark outside no matter what time it is.  They're left in the dark with limited light and something seems determined to keep them as patients in the hospital.  It's a bit derivative but it works well and ranks high on the disturb-o-meter, and builds in creepiness as it goes, ending up intense and packing lots of dread.  Recommended. 

Condemned to Live (B&W, 1935) aka Life Sentence, Demon of Doom.   Thoughtful vampire film in which kindly Professor Christian (Ralph Morgan), cursed by the bite of a vampire bat his mother received while he was being born, suffers a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence as he blacks out and becomes a bloodsucker by night.  The village relies un the professor's endless kindness to the poor, but live in terror of the vampire murders that are decimating the populace.  His hunchbacked assistant tries to stop him from killing while keeping his secret, and the professor -- who only wants to do good -- is troubled by what he suspects is happening.  Things are further complicated by his young fiance, who's in love with another guy but is very honored to be marrying the saintly professor and is devoted to him... but may become a victim.  He makes a fearsome-yet-sympathetic monster, and it's good to see an old horror movie that's not so cut-and-dried.  Similar in some ways to The Vampire Bat, which used the same music, sets, and director.

1 comment:

  1. These are always great, but Grave Encounters sounds right up my alley!